Q. Hi Cynthia. I should start off by letting you know that I think your website is great. It’s full of very helpful and presented in a way that is easy to understand. It all just makes so much sense and as I’m reading it I’m thinking “that sounds like me!” I was hoping you could give me some insight or help on my current situation. I’m a 32 year old male who has been suffering from chronic fatigue, depression, lack of motivation, drive, etc. on some level for about half of my life.
For most of it I just assumed everyone felt like that and it happened so gradually that I just didn’t notice something was wrong. I coped with coffee, alcohol, prescription stimulants, and anti-depressants but, of course, they all just made things worse in the long run. I’ve been told I am pre-diabetic from an endocrinologist, been told I have low hormone levels, etc. I’m sure you get the picture. After a couple of years of going to regular doctors and being pumped full of hormones and meds I finally realized this isn’t going to work and started exploring other options.
I began seeing a homeopathic doctor (for about 2-3 yrs. now) to detox heavy metals, toxins, and all that good stuff. Since seeing him I have noticed minimal improvement but improvement none the less. I am now off all meds, and after reading your website and a couple books you recommended I am off alcohol, sugar, processed foods and carbs (except what I get in veggies, and I do occasionally binge on pistachios or almond butter). I made this diet change 24 days ago. I exercise daily but have cut my workouts down a bit so I don’t wear myself out too much.
I’m 5’10” and about 215 lbs. I have some fat around the mid-section but I’m somewhat muscular so my weight may seem somewhat misleading if you haven’t seen me. My question to you is: why do I still feel like crap all the time? I feel like I’m doing everything in my power to try and feel better and healthy but it just seems like no matter what I do I still just feel down in the dumps, tired and foggy… now I know why I used to party and drink, because that was the only escape from this feeling and the only time I felt good. Is there anything else you would recommend? Do you think my weight is taking a toll on me? (I’m in shape I’m just big.)
I try to meditate once in a while but I’m not sure I know how or if it’s effective. I’ve pretty much eliminated all the stressors in my life within my power. The only thing I really stress about is the fact that I’m exhausted and depressed which has pretty much left my life in shambles. I have made it my life’s goal to beat this and feel good one day, so if it takes me the rest of my life I will do it but at this point I’m just extremely frustrated at the lack of progress. Sometimes is hard not to think that there is no hope and maybe this is just the cards I’ve been dealt and I just have to make do with what I have. Though I know in my heart that this isn’t the real me. What do you think? Sorry for the long message, I know you must be busy. Thank you. ~Mike
A. Hi Mike, Thank you. I’m glad you find the site to be helpful.
Your story is a very common one and unfortunately there is not an easy or quick answer. Most of us go down a variety of wrong roads before finding our way. You are now taking some very good steps in the right direction and beginning to see some small improvements. This is the general way that the healing process happens. There usually isn’t any dramatic event when one suddenly becomes well. Most conditions are multifaceted, complex and take significant time to improve.
Improvement in health typically unfolds in the same manner in which one got sick. A slow process that is sometimes unnoticeable until a certain point is reached. However, instead of a gradual decline down the slope, you are moving upwards. Setbacks are part of the process, however, sometimes a setback can be the thing that helps us realize how far we’ve come.
Yes, this can be very tiring, frustrating and disappointing, but you really want to avoid stressing over your exhaustion and depression, as this only perpetuates that which you are trying to heal. The key to coping with this process in a more comfortable manner and finding inner peace is acceptance. Acceptance of your feelings, your symptoms, your limits, your losses, your suffering, your diagnoses etc.
However, there needs to be a fine balance between acceptance and action. If you go too far in either direction, there is disharmony. Acceptance without action leads to stagnation, while action without acceptance leads to more frustration, disappointment and burnout.
Acceptance is not defeat. You don’t throw in the towel and give up on healing. You continue to move forward and try to heal simultaneously. It means that you accept that this is the way things are at this time in your live, but you continue to search for ways to improve the situation. You see the situation realistically, but you continue to have hope.
You want to remain a fighter and continue to explore the causes of your conditions and experiment with treatments, but not in a frantic and obsessed manner. Don’t forget to live and enjoy the good moments that you do have. Stop and “smell the roses” so to speak.
I know that isn’t what you’d like me to say, but I like to encourage people to have realistic expectations, otherwise they just feel more tired, discouraged and frustrated when they can’t achieve some miraculous recovery overnight.
There are many practitioners and natural health products out there that make claims for all kinds of instant miracle cures. I have not found them to be true, and it is counterproductive. People feel singled out or like something is wrong with them when they can’t achieve the miracles.
Essentially, one must learn to find peace and happiness in the midst of the storm.
We must embrace all our experiences, the good and the bad.
The best tool I have found to aid in this process is mindfulness and mindfulness based meditation. I encourage you to put it to use in your life daily. Many people have difficulty with meditation and thus I find mindfulness based meditation to be the best type as it overcomes some of the common barriers. I encourage you to read up on that and take a look at Meditating for Health, which has about 15 different types of simple and easy mindfulness meditation techniques.
Breathwork or deep breathing exercises are essential in the process as well, and they will help restore balance to the autonomic nervous system, thus assist in alleviating in many of the symptoms you are experiencing.
You can also find a variety of helpful tips for coping with chronic illness on the following pages:
Also, be sure to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. You are now off all medications, that in itself is a huge success. You’ve made significant changes in your diet, that too, is a big success. You’re no longer medicating yourself with coffee, sugar, drugs etc. Most people never make it that far. Recognize your strengths and accomplishments and give yourself praise for them. You’ve only been on the appropriate diet for a short time, so you should begin to see some improvements shortly.
On the other hand, complete healing is not always in the cards for everyone. Sometimes the damage that is done can be permanent, there may be financial barriers that prevents one from uncovering all their root causes, they may not have a health care provider with enough expertise to guide them where they need to be, a genetic component that can’t be overcome, or some unknown factor may exist. One must accept that this is a possibility, however keep striving to improve anyhow, because there is no way to know for sure. At least some improvement can usually be reached, regardless.
Now for the action side of the coin. When one continues to feel like crap or tired all the time, it means there are still some underlying factors that have not been addressed. If you are pre-diabetic, you likely have insulin resistance, so you’ll want to read up on that. The pre-diabetic can usually be healed with diet and exercise in time.
The primary root of depression is depleted or disrupted neurotransmitters, however neurotransmitters are impacted by a wide variety of substances and activities, like diet, nutrition, environmental toxins, emotional stress, relationships, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, candida overgrowth, blood sugar and more. So each of these issues must be explored to address depression.
Chronic fatigue, as well as lack of motivation and drive, have a variety of potential root causes. At the top of the list is adrenal fatigue, but it can also be nutritional deficiencies that power the krebs cycle to produce ATP (our primary source of energy), food sensitivities, candida overgrowth, hypothyroidism, pesticides or other common toxins and hypoglycemia.
The hormone imbalance is often caused by adrenal fatigue as well, all the precursors needed to make hormones are taken by the adrenal glands to make cortisol. So you’ll want to be sure to focus on this heavily.
Cravings and binging can also have several possible primary root factors, which include, neurotransmitter imbalance, candida overgrowth, food sensitivity, nutritional deficiencies and hypoglycemia. Since you recently gave up the sugar and junk food, the nut binges may be a temporary transition you are going through. It is not uncommon for people who are giving up sugar to replace it with something else until the body and mind stabilize.
Like everything else, being overweight shares many of the same root causes. Diet, nutrition, environmental toxins, stress, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, food sensitivities, hormone imbalance etc. However, the two primary issues with weight are diet and stress. You’ve already made the changes in carbs needed, but you may want to read Good Carbs Bad Carbs to understand why this is important. Stress makes us gain weight, because when we are under stress, adrenalin triggers the liver to released stored sugar into the blood stream on a continuous basis, which gets stored in the body as fat. You can learn more about this process on the insulin resistance symptoms page.
In my opinion homeopathy, in and of itself, is not the most effective method for detoxification. Although it can be helpful as part of the plan, there’s a lot more to detoxification than taking a homeopathic remedy.
In order for the body to detoxify, it must have sufficient levels of nutrients. (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids) If these are not present in adequate amounts, then the detoxification system cannot work properly. Most people with chronic fatigue, depression, brain fog etc. are deficient in a variety of key nutrients. Therefore, testing for nutritional deficiencies must be done to assess whether one has sufficient levels. This foundation must be in place.
Something many people don’t realize is that there are many different types of stress besides emotional stress. For example, there is metabolic stress, cognitive stress, spiritual stress, toxic stress, immune stress, endocrine stress, infectious stress, oxidative stress, structural stress, sensory stress, and energetic stress. So things like heavy metal toxicity, pesticides, herbicides, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise or the wrong kind of exercise, metabolic disorders, hormone imbalances, lack of meaning and purpose in life, TMJ, chronic pain, neurotransmitter imbalances etc. are all experienced as a form of stress on the body.
There are many different analogies that may be used to describe this phenomenon, like the straws on the camels back, nails in the shoe or water in the barrel. Basically, all the different stressors we are exposed to accumulate over time and degrade our health and the end result is autonomic nervous system dysfunction which leads to symptoms like depression, anxiety, adrenal glands that don’t function properly and much more.
To heal the nervous system and the adrenal glands, then one must identify the stressors that brought them to this position and address them. The straws must be taken off the camels back in order to enable it to stand up once again. I encourage you to consider my Adrenal Recovery Basics video and my book What Your Psychologist Hasn’t Told You About Anxiety and Depression to learn more about this process and all the contributing factors to the types of symptoms you are experiencing.
In order to figure out what you’re dealing with, there are a variety of functional medicine tests that can be helpful in this process. Anyone dealing with a health condition should have the following tests:
This discussion should make it apparent how each of these conditions and symptoms are interconnected. Depression, fatigue, weight gain, etc. can have numerous contributing factors and each of these contributing factors can produce a wide range of symptoms. When you address the root causes, then you address many of your symptoms simultaneously.
We also see why acceptance is an important part of the healing process. It can take years to figure out all the underlying causes of a complex health condition and sometimes new ones appear as we age. When you live with a chronic health condition, it takes work and vigilance to maintain a positive mind set. Acceptance itself will come and go as you navigate through the hills and valleys, and this too must be accepted. This is just the nature of the beast.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes.
“Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~Vivian Green